United States Congress

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The Seal of the U.S. Congress
The United States Capitol Building, in which the Congress resides.
I know well the coequal role of the Congress in our constitutional process. I love the House of Representatives. I revere the traditions of the Senate despite my too-short internship in that great body. As President, within the limits of basic principles, my motto toward the Congress is communication, conciliation, compromise, and cooperation. ~ Gerald Ford

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States of America, consisting of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election. It is headquartered at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Since 2022, the Senate has been controlled by the Democratic Party under Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer while the House is controlled by the Republican Party under House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. The presiding officer of the House is Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, while the presiding officers of the Senate is Vice President Kamala Harris and President Pro Tempore Patty Murray.

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  • It is Congress that has prevented educational reforms, health service reforms and welfare reforms that would have helped the many millions of your citizens who live below the poverty line. It is Congress which provides the weapons that allow Israel to commit mass murder against Palestinians and the billions of dollars that help that country build settlements on stolen land, while, at the same time, allocating relatively little money for the renovation of the many decaying inner cities across the United States. Your armed forces are ever at the ready to bomb other countries and overthrow or install their leaders. At the same time, your internal security forces have proved themselves incapable of combating organized crime or defeating the drug lords who, in practical terms, control large parts of your major cities.
  • The House is composed of very good men, not shining, but honest and reasonably well-informed, and in time they will be found to improve, and not to be much inferior in eloquence, science, and dignity, to the British Commons. They are patriotic enough, and I believe there are more stupid (as well as more shining) people in the latter, in proportion.
    • Fisher Ames, letter to George Richard Minot (May 27, 1789); reported in Works of Fisher Ames (1854), ed. Seth Ames, vol. 1, p. 45.
  • You send me to Washington to represent you in the senate. But you do not send me there because you are interested in grave questions of national or international policy. When I come back to Arizona, you never ask me any questions about such policies; instead you ask me: “What about my pension?” or “What about that job for my son?” I am not in Washington as a statesman. I am there as a very well paid messenger boy doing your errands. My chief occupation is going around with a forked stick picking up little fragments of patronage for my constituents.
    • Henry Fountain Ashurst, reported in Thomas C. Donnelly, Rocky Mountain Politics (1940), p. 283; reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).


  • The U.S. corporate media usually report on Israeli military assaults in occupied Palestine as if the United States is an innocent neutral party to the conflict... But U.S. media and politicians betray their own lack of neutrality by blaming Palestinians for nearly all the violence and framing flagrantly disproportionate, indiscriminate and therefore illegal Israeli attacks as a justifiable response to Palestinian actions.
    The classic formulation from U.S. officials and commentators is that "Israel has the right to defend itself," never "Palestinians have the right to defend themselves," even as the Israelis massacre hundreds of Palestinian civilians, destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and seize ever more Palestinian land... US policy must be reversed to reflect international law and the shifting US opinion in favor of Palestinian rights. Every Member of Congress must be pushed to sign the bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum insisting that US funds to Israel are not used "to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law."
    Congress must also be pressured to quickly enforce the Arms Export Control Act and the Leahy Laws to stop supplying any more U.S. weapons to Israel until it stops using them to attack and kill civilians... U.S. leaders and politicians must now confront their country's and, in many cases, their own personal complicity in this catastrophe, and act urgently and decisively to reverse U.S. policy to support full human rights for all Palestinians.
  • He votes as a Southern man, and votes sectionally; I am also a Southern man, but vote nationally on national questions.
  • REPRESENTATIVE, n. In national politics, a member of the Lower House in this world, and without discernible hope of promotion in the next.


  • I never know what South Carolina thinks of a measure. I never consult her. I act to the best of my judgment, and according to my conscience. If she approves, well and good. If she does not, or wishes any one to take my place, I am ready to vacate. We are even.
    • John C. Calhoun, reported in Walter J. Miller, "Calhoun as a Lawyer and Statesman"' part 2, The Green Bag (June 1899), p. 271. Miller states "I will cite his own words", but this quotation is reported as not verified in Calhoun's writings in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Congress seems drugged and inert most of the time. Even when the problems it ignores build up to crises and erupt in strikes, riots, and demonstrations, it has not moved. Its idea of meeting a problem is to hold hearings or, in extreme cases, to appoint a commission.
  • A few years ago Gen. Francis Marion Cockrell, for thirty consecutive years a prominent Senator from Missouri, denominated the United States Senate as “the greatest legislative body in the world,” whereupon Senator John C. Spooner, of Wisconsin, an eminent constitutional lawyer and considerable of a wit, said: “The Senate is not the greatest legislative body in the world. It is one of the branches of, I think, perhaps the greatest legislative body in the world, and the Senate may be the greatest part of the greatest legislative body in the world. I am not disposed to dispute that. We all admit that ourselves.”
    • Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics, vol. 1, p. 190 (1920). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • The truth is being more and more realized by the public that, other things being equal or anywhere near equal, the value of the Representative or Senator increases in proportion to his length of service. A man must learn to be a Representative or Senator, just as he must learn to be a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, merchant, engineer, lawyer, doctor, preacher, teacher, or anything else. Of course some men learn quicker than others—some of exceptional ability and powers of observation very speedily, and some not at all. The best plan for a constituency to pursue is to select a man of good sense, good habits, and perfect integrity, young enough to learn, and re-elect him so long as he retains his faculties and is faithful to his trust. Such a man grows into power and high position as surely as the sparks fly upward. As a rule, in both House and Senate, the best places go to men of long service, provided they are capable, sober, industrious, vigilant, and punctual in the discharge of their duties. No man should be sent to either House of Congress solely to gratify his own ambition, but because he has qualifications for the position which he seeks—indeed, better qualifications than any of his opponents.
    • Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics, vol. 1, p. 220 (1920).
  • There is a tradition that, on his return from France, Jefferson called Washington to account at the breakfast-table for having agreed to a second chamber. "Why," asked Washington, "did you pour that coffee into your saucer?" "To cool it," quoth Jefferson. "Even so," said Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."
    • Moncure Daniel Conway, Omitted Chapters of History Disclosed in the Life and Papers of Edmund Randolph (1888), p. 91. Reported as probably apocryphal in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • I am now here in Congress... I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me, or the driver at my heels, with his whip in hand, commanding me to ge-wo-haw, just at his pleasure. Look at my arms, you will find no party hand-cuff on them!
    • Davy Crockett, letter (28 January 1834), reported in A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (1834), p. 113, final paragraph.
  • The Congress shall have the Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States but all Duties, Imposts, and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States: To borrow Money on the credit of the United States; To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes; To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States; To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures; To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States; To establish Post Offices and post Roads; To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries; To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court; To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations; To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.


  • Too often critics seem more intent on seeking new ways to alter Congress than to truly learn how it functions. They might well profit from the advice of Thomas Huxley, who said a century ago: "Sit down before facts as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion — or you shall learn nothing."
    • Gerald Ford, Address at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (3 November 1966); published in Gerald R. Ford,Selected Speeches (1973) edited by Michael V. Doyle
  • I know well the coequal role of the Congress in our constitutional process. I love the House of Representatives. I revere the traditions of the Senate despite my too-short internship in that great body. As President, within the limits of basic principles, my motto toward the Congress is communication, conciliation, compromise, and cooperation.
    • Gerald Ford, Address to a joint session of Congress (August 12, 1974); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974, pp. 6–7.
  • Congress is, after all, not a body of laymen unfamiliar with the commonplaces of our law. This legislation was the formulation of the two Judiciary Committees, all of whom are lawyers, and the Congress is predominately a lawyers' body.


  • Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.


  • Two generations ago, Gladstone called the Senate of the United States "that remarkable body, the most remarkable of all the inventions of modern politics".
    • George Henry Haynes, The Senate of the United States, Its History and Practice (1938), Preface, p. vii. The attribution to William E. Gladstone is reported as unverified by Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).


  • Congress lets business owners, investors and landlords play by one set of rules, which are filed with opportunities to hide income, fabricate deductions and reduce taxes. Congress requires wage earners to operate under another, much harsher set of rules in which every dollar of income... is reported to the government, and taxes are withheld... to make sure [they] pay in full.
    • David Cay Johnston, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else (2005)
  • Members of Congress routinely vote on tax bills that they have never read, much less understood even on a superficial level. Sanford J. Schlesinger... says that "there hasn't been a member of Congress with a comprehensive understanding of the laws since Wilbur Mills..."
    • David Cay Johnston, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else (2005)


  • We are supporting Saudi Arabia while they inflict unthinkable human rights violations on the Yemeni people. Congress must do its job and stop providing military support and arm sales to the Saudi government.


  • Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation; and whereas, it is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truths announced in the Holy Scriptures, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord; and, inasmuch as we know that, by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God, we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.


  • Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens—and then everybody disagrees.
    • Boris Marshalov, a Russian observer, after visiting the House of Representatives; reported in Senator Alexander Wiley, Laughing with Congress (1947), p. 58.
  • On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.
    Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet. The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.
    First, the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war. Second, President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed, the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.
    Does all this have relevance today? Of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that there is little that Israel could do that would earn the opprobrium of the U.S. Congress or retaliation from the White House, whether it’s building illegal settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers.


  • Right now Freshman members of Congress are at a “Bipartisan” orientation w/ briefings on issues. Invited panelists offer insights to inform new Congressmembers‘ views as they prepare to legislate. # of Corporate CEOs we’ve listened to here: 4; # of Labor leaders: 0
  • Our “bipartisan” Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance. Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where‘s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?
  • The age difference between myself (29) + oldest House members is ~60 yrs. For better or worse, young people will live in the world Congress leaves behind. That’s why I focus on our future: addressing climate change & runaway income inequality, ending school-to-prison pipelines, etc.


  • Average Americans have little or no influence over the making of U.S. government policy. ... Wealthy Americans wield a lot of influence. By investing money in politics, they can turn economic power into political power.
  • I take the view that equality is equality … and that I am a member of Congress as good as anybody else. As long as it is within the law, it's not wrong... If the law is wrong, change the law.
    I do not do any more than any other member of the Congress, but by the Grace of God, I'll not do less!
    • Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., press conference and subsequent interview (February 20, 1963); reported in Neil Hickey and Ed Edwin, Adam Clayton Powell and the Politics of Race (1965), p. 230–31.


  • Papers say: "Congress is deadlocked and can't act." I think that is the greatest blessing that could befall this country.
  • I could study all my life and not think up half the amount of funny things they can think of in one Session of Congress.
    • Will Rogers, in Will Rogers' Weekly Articles: The Coolidge Years, 1925-1927‎ (1981), p. 8.
  • This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.
    • Will Rogers, Daily Telegram #1230, Congress Session, Rogers Says, Is Like Baby Getting A Hammer (4 July 1930)
  • So when all the yielding and objections is over, the other Senator said, "I object to the remarks of a professional joker being put into the Congressional Record." Taking a dig at me, see? They didn't want any outside fellow contributing. Well, he had me wrong. Compared to them I'm an amateur, and the thing about my jokes is that they don't hurt anybody. You can say they're not funny or they're terrible or they're good or whatever it is, but they don't do no harm. But with Congress — every time they make a joke it's a law. And every time they make a law it's a joke.
    • Will Rogers, quoted in P. J. O'Brien, Will Rogers, Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom, 1935, ch. 9, pp. 156–57 [1]
  • Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what's going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?
    • Will Rogers, as quoted in Dreams Come Due : Government and Economics as If Freedom Mattered (1986) by John Galt, p. 235
  • The rest of the people know the condition of the country, for they live in it, but Congress has no idea what is going on in America, so the President has to tell 'em.
    • Will Rogers as quoted in Defending Liars : In Defense of President Bush and the War on Terror in Iraq (2006) by Howard L. Salter, p. 40
  • And kid Congress and the Senate, don't scold 'em. They are just children thats never grown up. They don't like to be corrected in company. Don't send messages to 'em, send candy.


  • I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.


  • To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature Congressman.
    • Mark Twain, letter to the editor, New-York Daily Tribune (March 7, 1873, published March 10, 1873), p. 5.
  • A jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise.
    • Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1879, reprinted 1968), vol. 1 (vol. 3 of The Writings of Mark Twain), chapter 2, pp. 25–26.
  • It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
    • Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897), vol. 1 (vol. 5 of The Writings of Mark Twain), chapter 8, epigraph, p. 98.
  • I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.
    • Mark Twain, reported in Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips‎ (1948), p. 364.
  • Suppose you were a member of Congress. And suppose you were an idiot. But I repeat myself.
    • Mark Twain, draft manuscript (c.1881), quoted by Albert Bigelow Paine in Mark Twain: A Biography (1912).


  • We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel on the watch-tower of liberty.
    • Daniel Webster, remarks in the Senate (May 7, 1834); reported in The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), volume 7, p. 121.
  • If you had the opportunity to save a million people from preventable death, would you do it? … This is not merely a rhetorical question, but one that members of the Congress will have to answer in the present. … Right now, legislation has already passed the House of Representatives that would do just that. And it was included in the newly released COVID relief bill that is being negotiated between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It would require the Treasury Department, which represents our government at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to support a multi-trillion dollar relief package from the Fund. These funds are not loans and therefore will not have to be repaid. They have no conditions attached to them. And they do not cost the U.S. government anything at all — not now, and not at any time in the future.
  • The IMF leadership, and almost all of the 189 member countries — including U.S. allies such as Germany and Canada — are ready to allocate the aid that Congress is considering. The reason it hasn’t already been approved at the IMF is that the U.S. Treasury has said no, and the U.S. — alone — has a veto at the IMF on this matter. .. [I]t’s not at all clear why the Treasury is blocking this desperately needed aid. … Nor is there any reason that it should be a partisan issue … Of course the Congress has a lot on its plate, and is having trouble passing further relief that millions of Americans need to pay their bills and for many, even have enough to eat. But all indications are that Congress will pass major spending bills before the end of the year, including funding to avoid a government shutdown. It would take almost no effort to include the House or Senate bill that would unblock Treasury’s hold on the IMF funding…
  • All I've done since I've been in Washington has been to sit around and try to look wise, and that's what any man has to do who isn't willing to barter his convictions for political expediency. ... No man who wants to be intellectually honest has any business in Congress.
  • Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee-rooms is Congress at work.
    • Woodrow Wilson, Congressional Government, A Study in American Politics (1885; republished 1981), chapter 2, p. 69 (1981).

Author unknown

  • Since pro means the opposite of con, can you give me an illustration? Progress and Congress.
    • Reported in Louis Untermeyer, A Treasury of Laughter (1946), p. 655. Variously reported in other phrasings, such as, "If pro is the opposite of con, then isn't progress the opposite of congress?"
  • One of the standing jokes of Congress is that the new Congressman always spends the first week wondering how he got there and the rest of the time wondering how the other members got there.
    • Reported in the Saturday Evening Post (November 4, 1899), p. 356.


  • The best legislator is the one who votes for all appropriations and against all taxes.
    • Walter P. Brownlow; reported by his cousin, Louis B. Brownlow. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven't done it. Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.

See also

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